The Wahkiakum County Marine Resource Committee (MRC) has suggested an addition to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's proposal to move gillnetting into the side channels of the Columbia River.
The MRC has drafted a proposal suggesting that the Cathlamet Channel be classified and used for mixed use fisheries, if the Kitzhaber plan is adopted.
Besides limiting gillnetting to side channels and select areas, the Kitzhaber plan would give recreational fishing priority fishing times on the mainstem. Selective commercial gear, which are still in the developmental stages, could be used on the mainstem, but only after recreational fishers had caught their allocation.
MRC members joined commercial fishers in predicting the Kitzhaber plan would drive commercial fishers out of business.
"We suggest instead an actual testing ground for various experimental technologies and practices," the committee said in a letter to be sent to the commission working on Kitzhaber's proposals. "To date, more than $10 million in federal grants has been invested to foster such approaches.
"It seems logical to test technologies in or near the development state in real-world conditions prior to the collapse of a traditional fishing industry that was the intended beneficiary of such taxpayer-funded research and development."
Committee members presented the letter to the Cathlamet Town Council on Monday and the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday; each group said they would support the letter.
Committee members speaking on the proposal include Extension Agent Carrie Backman, MRC chair, Cathlamet Mayor George Wehrfritz, and Skamokawa gillnetter Kent Martin.
County Commission Chair Dan Cothren recommended bringing local recreational fishers into the picture.
"We'll have a summit later on this year," Backman said.
Martin commented that the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission seems to be buying into the Kitzhaber plan, which won't work well for Washington, because its waters don't have the bays and backwaters that Oregon has.
Fishery managers have a challenge, he added, for if commercial fishermen are limited in their catch, there will be a surplus of hatchery fish, and hatchery funders will want to cut production so there is no surplus of returns.
"Both governors (Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire) are behind it (the plan)," Martin said. "I don't know any Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers who have bought into this plan."